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Computing with efficiency and pleasure

By Jean-Claude Elias - Sep 16,2020 - Last updated at Sep 16,2020

Having the most appropriate computer hardware and software is necessary to use technology efficiently and agreeably. The two aspects are equally important. Indeed, whereas efficiency goes without saying, the pleasure part is not to neglect either. It is not a luxury anymore, considering the long hours we spend using the systems and the networks, and the stress that unavoidably goes with the work and that we absolutely need to relieve as much as possible, in any imaginable way.

To achieve that there are big questions to address, and then there are minor ones. The big ones concern the choice of the brand, of the processor, the size of the hard disk, the version of MS-Office or Google Suite, the size of your external screen, and so forth. This takes time and money.

The minor ones actually are not as “minor” as the adjective may imply. Basically they are free, or at least inexpensive. They range from a nice keyboard to good sounding speakers and friendly plug-in software applications that can do wonders in making your IT life more pleasant.

The latter, humble category, includes countless items to choose from. Two of them, taken from the long list, are particularly interesting.

The good old mouse is a little, apparently negligible item that can do more than just selecting and clicking. If the overwhelming number are basic models that have a left button, a right button and a scroll button in the middle, other types come with more buttons that can be programmed, assigned to do various functions, to replace long series of keyboard actions for example.

I recently found myself working on a long project where I had to perform a large number of double clicks with the left button. By large number I mean several thousands! In addition to the physical stress that this would have put on my wrist and fingers, it would have been too bad to waste time double-clicking. For even a half second when multiplied by 15,000 times, for instance, would have represented about two hours lost.

I used a special four-button mouse in conjunction with a nice little app called XMouseButtonControl designed by British company Highrez. It is legally free (you are also free to donate if you like), and it lets you programme what each of the buttons does exactly. The user interface is intuitive and easy to use. I set the fourth button to do automatic double-clicks, et voilà – it saved my hand. Programming what the buttons do is left to one’s imagination.

The second attractive item on my short list is SparkoCam. Developed by SparkoSoft, the nice software application interfaces with your webcam, or with any Nikon or Canon model you would connect through USB to your computer. Once the connection is established SparkoCam can change the background behind you, not just to a photo from the built-in catalogue or from your own collection of personal pictures, but even from a movie!

It can blur the background without changing it, keeping you sharp and clear, or add various effects to the image, or let little cartoon-like characters wander on your screen, next to you, above you, etc. Having fun while working or while video chatting with your friends is not a sin. It also allows you to record the video stream in excellent image quality. SparkoCam is not free, but at about $50 it comes as the inexpensive and perfect complement to your webcam in these days of going online without restraint.


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